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and so long as she lived with him the other females were regarded as inferior to her. *
There are in the volumes of the missionaries, from whom our most satisfactory information is derived, many interesting notices illustrative of the opinions formerly prevailing in the South Sea on the subject of sorcery and divination. Though the details are, in many cases, ludicrous and even disgusting, they all manifest a belief in the power of supernatural beings, and in the subjection of matter to the dominion of mind, whether benevolent or destructive. The means used to ascertain the will of the gods, and to avert the effects of their anger, bear no small resemblance to those employed by the ancient Greeks and Romans for the same purpose ; and hence the classical scholar, while he may regret the absence of the pleasing mythology with which the latter are associated, will acknowledge that the gross rites of Otaheite may be traced to the same source with the more elegant adoration which was offered to the deities of Delphi and Eleusis. Both flowed from the same fountain,—the consciousness that man cannot direct his own steps through the journey of life, nor determine the circumstances in which it shall be finally closed.
But the operations of that principle were not confined to the defence or welfare of the individual who had recourse to them : they were more frequently employed with the view of doing injury to others. The persons who devoted themselves to sorcery as a profession, readily lent their aid to the vindictive passions of those by whom they were employed; and it is certain that either by
* Ellis, vol. i. p. 274. Rienzi, Océanie, ou Cinquième Partie du Monde. Revue Geographique et Ethnographique de la Malaisie ; de la Micronesie; de la Polynesie, et de la Malanesie (3 tomes, Paris, 1836), tome deuxième, p. 316. In the chapter entitled “ Des Femmes en général,” M. De Rienzi has stated some things on the subject of marriage among the Polynesians, which must not be taken too literally. The narratives of the English missionaries do not authorize the belief that their notions of female honour were quite so relaxed as the French writer, trusting to other sources of information, has represented them.
means of poison secretiy administered, or by the influence of terror on the imagination, they could produce the most horrible effects. The incantations usually commenced with a curse, pronounced by the priest or by the offended individual himself, in the name of certain gods; and, from the vengeance thereby imprecated, no hope of escape could be entertained, except by securing the interposition of some more powerful demon. We are informed, however, that the simple mysteries of prayer and offerings were not held sufficient to accomplish the object of the wizard, whether for assault or protection. Like the Circes and Medeas of ancient times, the minister of Polynesian superstition required some outward means whereby he might reach either the body or the mind of the person against whom his art was to be practised. As a vehicle by which the tormenting spirit might enter, he demanded parings of the nails, a lock of the hair, saliva from the mouth, or else a portion of the food which the doomed victim was to eat. This was called the tubu; and over it were performed, in the temple of the oromatua, those diabolical rites which were deemed essential to the potency of the charm. During this process the evil spirit was supposed to enter into the tubu, and, through it, into the individual whose life was menaced. If it was a portion of food, it was placed in his basket; and, if eaten, a sudden death seldom failed to ensue. The most acute agonies and terrific distortions of body were in many cases experienced ; the wretched sufferer appeared in a state of frantic madness, torn, as was imagined, by a malignant fury, under whose dreadful power he writhed and foamed.
There is little doubt but that poison was the chief instrument employed in all those private murders, though it was, in general, so cautiously administered that the hand of the assassin could not be detected. The following instance, recorded in the Polynesian Researches, affords an illustration of this atrocious practice which cannot be mistaken, because the youth of the victim precluded the influence of any merely mental impression.
One of the missionaries happened to send two native boys, his servants, from Eimeo to Otaheite for arumroots. The man under whose care it was growing was a sorcerer ; but being from home, the lads, according to the directions they had received, went to the field and procured the roots for which they had been sent. Before they departed, the person who had charge of the field returned, and was so enraged that he pronounced the most dreadful imprecations upon one or both of them. They set off for Eimeo, but apparently took no notice of the threatening. One of them was shortly afterwards taken ill ; and the malediction of the sorcerer being made known to his friends, it was immediately concluded that the poor child was possessed by an evil spirit. Alarming symptoms rapidly increased, and some of the missionaries went to see him. On entering the place where he lay, a most appalling spectacle was presented : the unfortunate patient was lying on the ground, writhing in anguish, his eyes apparently ready to start from his head, and his limbs agitated with violent convulsions. The relations standing around were filled with horror at the sight of torments which they could neither mitigate nor remove ; and the sufferer soon afterwards expired in the most frightful agonies.*
It is a singular circunstance, that, while this abominable practice continued among the natives, the sorcerers invariably acknowledged that their devices were harmless when employed against Europeans; alleging that these last were under the keeping of a Being much more powerful than any spirit which their incantations could evoke. But the safety of the white men arose from their limited intercourse with the heathen priesthood, who, there is no doubt, aided their spells by means of most subtile poisons conveyed in food or liquids. Indeed some of the sorcerers, since their conversion to Christianity, have confessed their guilt in this respect; admitting that the deaths which had been attributed to their supernatural agency, were occasioned by destructive mixtures.
* Ellis, vol. i. p. 366.
The forms of augury among the Otaheitans will remind every reader of the ceremonies practised for learning the will of the gods in Greece and Rome. Divination was pursued in a variety of modes, by all of which it was imagined that future events might be made known to those whose interests induced them to look into the perspective of coming time. Much of it was connected with the sacrifices they offered, more especially the appearances of the animal in the agonies of death, or immediately after life was extinguished. In the muscular action of the fibres, the colour of the blood, or the condition of the viscera, the priest could behold the success of armies, the fall of a dynasty, or the conquest of an island. In another particular the similarity between the sacerdotal craft of ancient Europe and that of the South Sea is equally conspicuous. The god was supposed to enter the individual who ministered at his altar; who, inflated as it were with the divinity, ceased to act as a voluntary agent, but moved and spoke as if entirely under the influence of supernatural power. No sooner, however, had he uttered the response of the oracle than the paroxysm began to subside, and composure ensued; though, in some cases, the excitement continued several days, during which all his words and actions were considered as the fruit of direct inspiration.
Our account of the state in which the Polynesians were found by the early navigators would be incomplete did we fail to add a few remarks on a fraternity, known in some of the islands under the name of Areois. So far as their practices throw any light on the object of their institution, they may be said to combine the characteristics of gipsies, strolling players, and knightserrant. Though their actions are neither pure nor generous, they claim a heavenly origin; maintaining that their society was founded by two brothers of Oro, the god of war, who, learning that he was in the habit of paying stolen visits to a lady in the valley of Borabora, descended to the earth to watch his proceedings, or to congratulate him on his happiness. In return for this
attention, he authorized them to establish a community, who should possess certain privileges, and be restricted to special rules. Among these last was an injunction that they should live in celibacy, and have no descendants; hence, though they did not positively prohibit marriage, the modern areois consider themselves bound to murder their children. In some respects, indeed, they bear a resemblance to the priests of Cebele and Bacchus, who, while they freely indulged their inordinate desires, were not allowed to encumber themselves with the inconvenience of progeny.
A late visiter has described them as “ legion-fiends of the voluptuous haunts of Belial,” who rove from one island to another, at home every where, and every where welcomed on account of the merriment they carry with them. They are also obsequiously reverenced for the terror they inspire, when they have occasion to extort property from those who dare not withhold it, whether they sue or whether they threaten. They consist generally of the cleverest and most handsome persons of both sexes, though the proportion of men to women is at least as five to one. Before the restraints of Christianity were acknowledged among the natives, whenever a company of areois, after one of their brief voyages, landed upon a shore where they meant to make some stay, their first business was to present at the marai a small sucking-pig as a thank-offering to the god for having conducted them thither in safety. But this sacrifice was understood to intimate more than a simple feeling of gratitude; it signified also to the people among whom they had come that they wanted food. This rite, therefore, was usually followed by what was emphatically called a “ feeding;" when fifty or sixty hogs, perhaps, and fruit in proportion, were presented to them, together with rolls of cloth, and every other thing necessary for their personal accommodation.
The public entertainments, purchased at this high price, consisted chiefly in dramatic scenes, composed with little skill, or in the recital of legendary tales con