« ForrigeFortsæt »
himself on any convenient spot of ground, and the matabooles seat themselves on either hand, so as would form a circle, or rather an ellipsis, if there was not a considerable vacant space left opposite the priest. In this space, at the bottom of the circle, sits the man who
prepares the cava, the root being previously chewed by the cooks, attendants, and others, who sit behind him: behind these again sit the chiefs indiscriminately among the people. The chiefs take this retired and humble station on account of the sacredness of the occasion, conceiving that such modest demeanour must be acceptable to the gods.
As soon as they are all seated, the priest is considered as inspired, the god being supposed to exist within him from that moment. He sits for a considerable time in silence, with his hands clasped before him; his eyes are cast down, and he remains perfectly still. During the time that the victuals are being shared out, and the cava being prepared, the matabooles sometimes begin to consult him ; sometimes he answers them, at other times not; in either case he remains with his eyes cast down. Frequently he will not answer a word till the repast is finished, and the cava too. When he speaks, he generally begins in a low and very altered tone of voice, which gradually rises to nearly its natural pitch, though sometimes a little above it. All that he says is supposed to be the declaration of the god, and he accordingly speaks in the first person as if he were the god. All this is done generally without any apparent inward emotion or outward agitation; but sometimes his countenance becomes fierce, and, as it were, inflamed, and his whole frame agitated with inward feeling; he is seized with an universal trembling ; the perspiration breaks out on his forehead, and his lips, turning black, are convulsed ; at length tears start in floods from his eyes, his breast heaves with great emotion, and his utterance is choked.
These symptoms gradually subside.
Before this paroxysm comes on, and after it is over, he often eats as much as four hungry men, under other circumstances, could devour. The fit being now gone off, he remains for some time calm, and then takes a club that is placed by him for the purpose, turns it over and regards it attentively; he then looks up earnestly, now to the right, now to the left, and now again at the club; afterwards he looks up again, and about him in like manner, and then again fixes his eyes upon his club,
and so on, for several times : at length he suddenly raises the club, and, after a moment's pause, strikes the ground, or the adjacent part of the house, with considerable force: imme. diately the god leaves him, and he rises up and retires to the back of the ring among the people. If the company now wish for any more cava, Finow, or the greatest chief present, goes and sits at the head of the ring.
It might be supposed that this violent agitation on the part of the priest is merely an assumed appearance for the purpose of popular deception ; but Mr. Mariner has no reason at all to think so. There can be little doubt, however, but that the priest, on such occasions, often summons into action the deepest feelings of devotion of which he is susceptible, and by a voluntary act disposes his mind, as much as possible, to be powerfully affected : till at length, what began by volition proceeds by involuntary effort, and the whole mind and body becomes subjected to the overruling emotion. But there is nothing new in all this: ancient times, as well as modern, afford numerous instances of this nature; and savage nations, as well as civilized, display ample testimony that false religions, and false notions of
religion, act upon some minds with such extraordinary impulses, that they are mistaken for divine inspirations.
It happens in the Tonga Islands, that persons, who are not priests, are often visited by the gods, particularly females, but who are never affected in the manner above described: they are generally low spirited and thoughtful, as if some heavy misfortune had befallen them, and, as the symptom increases, they generally shed a profusion of tears ; they sometimes swoon away for a few minutes : the height of the paroxysm generally lasts from a quarter to half an hour. These are also called fits of inspiration, and are firmly believed to be visitations from some god who accuses the party of neglect of religious duty, not by an apparent audible warning, but by an inward compunction of conscience. But these things are also common enough in all parts of the world, at home as well as abroad. Some of the natives are such adepts at this sort of mysterious conversation with the divinities, that they can bring on a fit of inspiration whenever they feel their mind at all so disposed. Mr. Mariner, indeed, did once witness a rare instance of a man who was disappointed in this particular: finding himself, as he thought, about to be in
spired, some cava was brought to him (as is usual on such occasions), but, in a little while, he was obliged to acknowledge that the god would not visit; at which all present were greatly surprised, and so the cava was taken away again.
These imaginations, however, have sometimes produced very serious consequences : to give an instance; on one occasion a certain chief, a very handsome young man, became inspired, but did not yet know by whom ; on a sudden he felt himself exceedingly low spirited, and shortly afterwards swooned away; when recovered from this, still finding himself very ill, he was taken to the house of a priest*, who told the sick chief that it was a woman, mentioning her name, who had died two years before, and was now in Bolotoo † that had inspired him ; that she was deeply in love with him, and wished him to die (which event was
* It is customary to take a sick person to the house of a priest, that the will of the gods may be known. The priest becomes immediately inspired, and remains almost constantly in that state while the sick person is with him. If he coes not get better in two or three days he is taken to another priest, &c.
+ Bolotoo is the name they give to their paradise, and is supposed to be an island to the north-westward.