Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/102

This page has been validated.
80
[ch.
Secret Societies and Mysteries.

is not, or but lately was not, so readily made known. This is the apparatus by which the peculiar, and certainly very impressive, sound is made, which was believed by the outsiders to be the cry or voice of the ghosts. This is a flat, smooth stone, on which the butt-end of the stalk of a fan of palm is rubbed. The vibration of the fan produces an extraordinary sound, which can be modulated in strength and tone at the will of the performer, and which proceeding in the stillness of daybreak from the mysterious recesses of the salagoro, may well have carried with it the assurance of a supernatural presence and power. The origin of this contrivance is thus narrated. Two members of the Great Tamate in Vanua Lava going together along the shore heard a strange and unearthly sound as they approached a point of land, the usual haunt of ghosts. They found this to be produced by an old woman sitting on the beach and rubbing down shells for money upon a stone, who was contriving to do her work and at the same time shelter herself from the sun, by using the handle of her palmleaf umbrella for the stick which holds the shell. The men perceived the value of the discovery for the purpose of their mysteries, ran in upon the woman and killed her, and carried off the stone and her umbrella. This apparatus does the work which the 'bull-roarer,' too well known in the Banks' Islands to be used in mysteries, performs elsewhere.

To obtain admission into any of these societies is to tiro. Before admission can be obtained to the Great Tamate, the candidate or his friends has to usur with a pig of the valued kind called rawe; and there is also a period of fasting to be gone through. When he is admitted he is brought into the salagoro, and deposits money at the successive stages of his advance, marked by the soloi beside the path till he comes

    a mask worn in one of these societies is the same as that given to the society itself, tamate, a ghost; and tamate has long been established as the name of any European hat or cap. Hence it is natural rather to speak of these disguises as hats than as masks, and useful perhaps to do so, to distinguish them from the masks to cover the face which are in use elsewhere.