Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/107

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Banks Island 'Qatu.'

has to be paid; children too young to dance have the money paid for them and enter; when they are big enough they go in again to learn the dance. Nothing can better represent to a visitor the scene of an initiation into religious mysteries than the jealously guarded enclosure from which in the dead of night strange sounds and loud calls proceed, and the name of which associates it with Qat, who may be taken for the god whom they worship[1]. But the name Qat refers to the hats and not to the vui; and enquiry does not discover any religious meaning in the initiation. The neophytes learn a dance difficult of execution and requiring much practice, not because of a complicated figure, but from the rapidity and accuracy with which the steps are stamped. The steps, as in other dances, follow a song, and the tapping of a bamboo. The Mota song is as follows: Veve! la us mae, na ven toa, to salsal, to salsal, Vevae, la us mae, na ven toa; 'Mother! bring a bow hither, that I may shoot a fowl, a flying fowl; Mother, bring a bow hither, that I may shoot a fowl.' The same with slight verbal change is what is used in Santa Maria, and no doubt in the other islands also. As they dance this song is silently followed, or sung in a low voice. There are other songs learnt and sung in the nin which are not known to the uninitiated: I have one from Gaua in Santa Maria, beginning 'Oh! make the fire and blow it into flame, we will finish covering in our oven', and having nothing in it which might not be found in other songs. It may perhaps be thought that the simple words of the song with which the Qat is danced veil some mysterious meaning; the initiated declare that it does not. When the appointed time is come the newly instructed dancers and the initiated come forth with lofty hats upon their heads. These hats, in which the Qat was no doubt originally danced, answer to the masks of the tamate, but are

  1. Thus Bishop Patteson described his first acquaintance with the Qatu at Mota. On that occasion a small boy was detected looking into the enclosure from a tree into which he had climbed; he was seized and taken inside; by way of punishment he was covered with the leaves of the kalato nettle-tree and he was compelled to join the neophytes.