Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/105

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Banks' Island 'Tamate.'

into activity, with a view to bring themselves into evidence, to attract recruits, to impress the people with a sense of their importance, and to enjoy a festival. Then they begin to make new masks and dresses within their lodge, and the solemn sound of the linge tamale warns all without that the mysteries have begun. The country is said to be close, o vanua we gona, no one can venture along the paths without the risk of being beaten by the tamate. They assume the greatest license in carrying off all they want, robbing gardens and stripping fruit-trees for their feast, and then any one will suffer who has spoken or acted without due respect to the society. The ghosts in their disguise will rush into the villages, chasing the terrified women and children, and beating any whom they can catch; the disadvantage of remaining outside as matawonowono is made apparent[1]. Many of the lesser societies, composed of those who are members also of the Great Tamate, whose power is at their back, practise the same tyranny; but there are some that do not terrify or beat, but come out to show their finery and dance. A pretty and pleasant scene it is when two or three figures dance forth into the sunshine of the village place; their heads concealed in masks in shape like the cowls of Italian becchini, coming down in a point upon the breast, and with round eyes painted on the sides, white, and glistening with scarlet seeds and the fresh green of the cycas fronds; their bodies hidden in golden brown cloaks of sago leaves;

  1. The smaller societies make their appearance with less pretence. 'On my way home I met a wild and grotesque-looking party of men; they belonged to a tamate society, and they had been to pull a house to pieces in order to compel the owner, or his son perhaps, to join them. They were adorned with hibiscus flowers and croton leaves, their faces smudged with charcoal, and a leaf in the mouth, each carrying a stick. Two or three of these had on a tamate, a hat and mask, with a long fringe of leaves reaching down to the heels.' 'At this time of the year, when they are baking bread-fruit, some of the young men dress up in a mask and put on a dress of dried banana leaves, tied round the neck and reaching to the ground, and they dance along with a rustling noise from the dry leaves. They either talk gibberish or else in one of the neighbouring dialects. The women and children are supposed to be frightened of them, but they often give them their dried bread-fruit.' These are the Qasa. Rev. J. Palmer's Journals, Island Voyage, 1877, 1883.