Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/108

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Secret Societies and Mysteries.

high and pointed, resting on the shoulders; they are now so tall that they require guy ropes on either side to support them, and it is impossible to wear them and dance. The Qat dance is wonderful indeed. The open space in the middle of a village on a moonlight night is lined with the spectators; the loud report of bursting bladders is heard from the wood around; one after another the performers, with a surprisingly rapid stamping motion of the feet, enter upon the ground, and come to an equally surprising sudden halt; the leader carries a length of bamboo made into a drum, with which he directs and controls the dance; the rest carry in their hands their bows. When the dancers are numerous and expert the weight and accuracy with which they beat the ground is wonderful; the island seems to shake beneath their feet. In Santa Maria, whether at Gaua or at Lakona, the Qat is more elaborate and difficult than in Mota or Motalava; boys at Norfolk Island will never undertake it. A practice of three or four months is needed for this before newly-initiated performers can venture to come out and dance. In former times, when the newly-taught dancers made their first appearance, the old members past their dancing days from far and near would gather round with their bows in their hands and jealously watch the steps; if they saw an error they would shoot; and if any one were hit the blame was laid on the faulty dancer; there was no quarrel with the shooter and no compensation to be made.

II. The New Hebrides. In the Northern New Hebrides the Qatu, with other institutions of the same kind, has its place in Maewo, Omba, and Araga. In Omba, Lepers' Island, I know no more than that there is a Qatu, the hats for which are made in the shape of a shark; from the other two islands information is abundant. In Maewo, Aurora, there is more than one Qatu, but one, the Qatu lata, is the chief. In all these there is initiation with trial of endurance by torments and hardships, but there is no secret imparted beyond the knowledge of the song and dance and the making of the decorations. For the initiation an enclosure is made with reeds near a group of