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cerning the gods and their own ancestors. Many of these pieces were so regularly constructed as to be capable of verbal repetition from time to time; while others were accompanied with such illustrations as the fancy of the performer might enable him to introduce on the spur of the occasion. Their leader was placed, cross-legged, on a stool seven feet high, with a fan in his hand, in the midst of admiring auditors, whom he delighted with his drollery, or charmed with his wit. He introduced the recitation with a sort of prologue, when, after exhibiting some fantastic attitudes, the whole party began their song in a low voice and measured cadence, which, increasing in intensity as they proceeded, became at length exceedingly loud and rapid. When quite exhausted by the violence of their exertions, they discontinued the performance, until revived strength and a fresh audience encouraged them to a renewal of their follies.
On such occasions their dress was not less remarkable than their acting and music; their bodies being painted with charcoal, and their faces stained with a scarlet dye. Sometimes they used a belt of yellow leaves, which resembled closely the feather-girules of the Peruvians and other American tribes. At other times they wore a vest formed of the ripe plantain, and ornamented their heads with the most brilliant foliage that could be procured. It is remarked by Mr Ellis, that in their performances the priests and other public persons were ridiculed without mercy, and that allusion was frequently made to passing events, to a royal marriage, or the incidents of a war. But dancing appears to have been a favourite and more frequent entertainment than the farce or burletta; and they often kept it up during the greater part of the night, accompanied by their voices, the flute, and the drum. Spacious houses, highly decorated, were erected in most of the islands for their accommodation.
The areois were divided into several classes, each of which was distinguished by the tattooing on their bodies. The highest order was called avae parai, painted leg, the leg being completely blackened from the toe to the knee; and the inferior grades received a corresponding appellation from the place or pattern of this species of adornment. The seventh class, whose persons were more or less disfigured with paint and carving, was denominated poo faarearea, or pleasure-making, because from it were selected the dancers and chief pantomimists. But, in addition to the seven regular classes, there were numerous individuals of both sexes who attached themselves to this dissipated fraternity, preparing their food and dresses, and performing other menial duties. Nor was this institution confined to any particular rank in society: it was composed of individuals belonging to every order of the inhabitants. In all cases, however, the admission was attended with a variety of ceremonies, and followed by a protracted noviciate ; there being superior distinctions which could not be attained until after a laborious attention to the mysteries and rites of the brotherhood.
It was believed by the mass of the people, that such as became areois were prompted by the direct inspiration of the gods. When, therefore, any individual wished to be admitted to their society, he repaired to one of their public exhibitions in a state of apparent derangement, and arrayed in a fanciful dress. After a considerable trial of his docility and talents, if he persevered in the desire to be inaugurated, the ceremony took place in circumstances not dissimilar to those which used to accompany the introduction of a novice into the secrets of freemasonry. Their elevation to the several orders of their craft, too, proceeded on like grounds. After the gods were solicited to sanction the advancement, the candidates were taken to the temple, where their foreheads were solemnly anointed with fragrant oil. The sacred pig, wrapped in a consecrated cloth, was next put into the hand of each individual, and formally offered to the divinity; after which they were declared to be areois of the order to which they had respectively aspired. If the pig, thus presented, was killed, it was buried in the sanctuary ; but if kept alive, its ears were ornamented with a tassel composed of the fibre of the cocoa-nut. It was then liberated, and being regarded as sacred, on account of its being offered to a god, it was allowed to feed where it pleased until it died a natural death.
Perhaps it was owing in no small degree to the solemnity now described, as well as to the legend which respects the origin of their institution, that the areois passed their lives, esteemed by the people as a superior order of beings, closely allied to the gods, and deriving from them a license to perpetrate the various enormities which disgraced their whole body. Free from labour and care they roved from island to island, supported by the chiefs, or feasting on the plunder taken from the grounds of the poor husbandmen. Such, too, was the system of delusion connected with their superstition, that for them was reserved that Elysium which their mythology taught them to believe was provided in a future state of existence, for persons so distinguished by the favour of heaven.
It is gratifying to add, that an institution which so long exerted a baneful influence over the minds of an ignorant indolent people, has already lost much of its authority and many of its adherents. The purer morality of the gospel has put to shame their abominable practices; while the taste of the simple natives, already greatly refined by the more exalted nature of the pursuits to which they are now invited, begins to contemn the paltry amusements afforded by the areois, and to abhor the immoral principles on which they were founded. We are assured that some of those who were ringleaders in all the vice and cruelty connected with the system, are at present distinguished for their active benevolence and exemplary lives. One of the first deacons of the church at Huahine, and who, as a missionary to his heathen brethren, has proved an indefatigable, upright, intelligent man, was once the principal areoi in the island of Raiatea.
On the Means employed for Improving the Inhabitants of
the South Sea Islands, and more especially the Introduction of Christianity.
Motives to Discovery-Exertions of Missionaries—Savage Life never spontaneously improved-Proceedings of Lieutenant Bligh at Otaheite--The Failure of Spanish Priests—Origin of Missionary Society-Sailing of the Duff-Landing of Missionaries—Different Views as to the Means of civilizing Barbarians-South America and Africa—First Efforts at Otaheite fruitless-Remarks of Kotzebue—Similar Opinions adopted by the Literary Journals-Benefits conferred by Means of Christian Missions-Abolition of Infanticide and human Sacrifices—Difficulties to be encountered-Brighter Prospects opened-Remark on the Qualifications of a Missionary.
CONSIDERING the benevolent spirit which usually animates the British public, it was not probable that discoveries so interesting as those which had crowned the efforts of Wallis, Byron, Carteret, and Cook, would be long allowed to remain unproductive of advantage to the inhabitants of the remote lands thereby brought to light. It was indeed the main object of the successive voyages that did so much honour to the reign of George the Third, to increase and to diffuse knowledge, not only at home, but more especially among rude tribes in the most distant parts of the earth, who, it was hoped, might by such means be rescued from ignorance and superstition, and be made fit to share all the blessings of civilized existence. On former occasions, the patrons of navigation had allowed themselves to be in no small degree influenced by the prospect of acquiring vast treasures, of descrying new countries where their power night be established, or of improving commerce, whereby private wealth would be augmented, and the national resources enlarged.
Such motives were at one time avowed in all the nations of Europe. The exertions of Columbus, for example, were stimulated not less by the love of glory than by the hope of adding to the magnificence of the monarchs who had countenanced his adventure. The path to India round the eastern Cape was discovered under the action of a similar impulse ; and even when the English first touched the shores of North America, they thought not of the natives, whose condition might have excited their pity, but of the mines of gold with which they believed that the mountains every where abounded. In proportion as the mercantile spirit gained strength, the objects of the traveller and navigator became less pure; and it was not till a period comparatively recent that the labours of the discoverer, whether by sea or land, were sanctified by the loftier aim of promoting science, or extending the benefits of religion.
At an earlier period, and when as yet the desire to bring the heathen within the pale of salvation was recognised as the most sacred and the most powerful of all inducements that could lead men to act or to suffer, much toil was endured, and many dangers were braved by christian missionaries, who thought it not too much to travel on foot through savage countries, with the precepts of the gospel in their hands, and its warm benevolence in their hearts. No one can read, without admiration for his zeal and self-denial, the labours of Francis Xavier, who journeyed into far countries, and encountered all the perils incident to an unprotected residence among the fiercest barbarians, that he might convey the knowledge of the cross to the remotest provinces of India. Inspired by a generous love for mankind, and encouraged by the predictions of the Divine Author of his faith, the true Christian has at all times endeavoured to extend