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GHOST WORSHIP AND TREE WORSHIP.

feel the strain imposed upon their consciences harder than they can bear.

One of the most striking pieces of evidence I have been able to obtain, however, is that of the Tanese in the New Hebrides, who, says Mr. Turner, in a passage I have already partly quoted, "have no idols. The banyan tree forms their sacred grove or temple for religious worship. . . . The spirits of their departed ancestors were among their gods. Chiefs who reached an advanced age were after death deified, addressed by name, and prayed to on various occasions. They were supposed especially to preside over the growth of the yams and the different fruit trees. The first fruits were presented to them, and in doing this they laid a little of the fruit on some stone" (query, a gravestone?) "or shelving branch of the tree, or some more temporary altar of a few rough sticks from the bush, lashed together with strips of bark, in the form of a table with its four feet stuck in the ground. All being quiet, the chief acted as high priest and prayed aloud thus: 'Compassionate father, here is some food for you; eat it; be kind to us on account of it.' And instead of an amen, all united in a loud shout."[1]

In Fiji, once more, the first fruits of the yam harvest are presented to the ancestors in the Nanga or sacred stone inclosure; and no man may taste of the new crop till the presentation has been made, a trait found also among other savages. The yams thus offered are piled up in the inclosure, and no one is allowed to touch them under pain of severe ghostly punishment. A mission teacher told Mr. Fison that when he visited the spot he saw among the weeds that grew there numerous yam vines which had sprung from the piles of decayed offerings—a most suggestive fact in the light of the origin I conjecturally assign to cultivation.[2]

In all these cases, and many others that might be quoted, it is to ancestral spirits as such that the offering is made. But often our authorities mention gods rather than ghosts, though the distinction between the two is probably but a small one. Among the Basutos, for instance, when the corn has been thrashed, it is left in a heap on the thrashing-floor, and can not be touched till a religious ceremony has been performed to sain it. The owners bring a new vessel, never used, to the spot, in which they boil a little of the corn as a sacrificial duty. Then they throw a few handfuls on the heap, saying: "Thank you, gods; give us bread to-morrow also." When this has been done, the rest may safely be eaten.[3] Many other cases are recorded by Mr. Frazer in the appendix to The Golden Bough.


  1. Op. cit., p. 319.
  2. Rev. L. Fison in Journal of the Anthropological Institute, vol. xiv, p. 27
  3. Casalis, The Basutos, p. 252.