Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/103

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Banks' Island 'Tamate.'

into the house. He has then to goto, remain secluded, so many days before he can go back into his village, and after that has to serve so many days more in the preparation of the daily oven. The number of days of seclusion and of attendance, and the amount of the admission fees, vary with the dignity of the society[1]. In Ureparapara, where the Great Tamate is not of much importance, there are three chief societies, Ni Pir, No Vov, Ne Menmendol, into which the admission is difficult; the new member has to goto for a hundred

  1. Mr. Palmer thus describes the initiation of children at Pek in Vanua Lava. 'A number of children were about to enter the Salagoro, which was the cause of the gathering. We passed through a tall screen of cocoa-nut leaves some twenty feet high, made so as to hide the precincts of the Salagoro from the uninitiated. In the courtyard of the village there was a group of children, some babies earned in their fathers' arms, all boys; these were the candidates for admission into the Salagoro. We waited for a short time, when some one gave a signal, and one of the men gave a long, loud cry with all the strength of his lungs, and then came rushing from a path inland a curious figure I had seen dressing up for the occasion. This was the tamate wasawasa (the harmless ghost) who was to conduct the children into the Salagoro. He came along with a light, springy step, with two white rods in his hands, which he danced up and down. All you saw of the man were his two legs. On his head was a curious kind of hat or tamate; it is a mask with holes or slits in it, through which he saw; long fringes made of cocoa-nut leaves blanched covered his body entirely, and formed a kind of Inverness cape, through which his hands protruded. A singular effect is given to the figure by the peculiar high trotting action with which he rushes about, his leafy coat flying about him with a rustling noise. He came leaping into the tinesara over a stone wall with a springy bound, and danced round and round the group in the middle; and then all at once with a shout rushed into the midst of them, and beat his two white wands together till they were broken to shreds over the heads of the group. One little fellow got frightened and rushed away, but he soon was brought back again. Then the tamate retired into the enclosure, and the group filed off in a procession round the tinesara, where a number of pigs were tied to stakes. The pigs got a smack from each child; then they all went in single file into the tall enclosure. As we watched them, the same little fellow who was frightened before rushed back out of the screen, and after hiding himself for a moment jumped up and rushed away into the bush, amidst a roar of laughter. I heard afterwards that he ran away home, a distance of some five or six miles. This was only the preliminary ceremony. These children will have to remain in the enclosure forty or fifty days, till all the money and pigs are paid for the privilege of belonging to this club.'—Island Voyage, 1879.