Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/114

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Secret Societies and Mysteries.

fees and suffer as they do. But as it is certain that there is no 'making of young men,' and that initiation is not a step to matrimony, so it is equally certain that the social position of a native depends very much upon his membership of the most important of these clubs; an outsider could never be a person of consequence; a man of good social position would think it his duty to secure the same position for his son by entering him early in the clubs to which he himself belonged. To receive a new member with trials of his endurance, to let him rise into equality only through pain and contumely, has been, and may still be, the way of Universities and Schools; and there is no reason why the attraction of a mysterious secret which draws civilized men should not work upon the savage. The native neophyte also expected before his initiation that he really should join in company with the ghosts of the departed; when he was illuminated he enjoyed the deception of those who followed him, and was well satisfied to eat their pigs and take their money.

In the island of Araga, Pentecost or Whitsuntide, immediately south of Aurora, the institution is called the Qeta. I have the description of it from one who was made a member as an infant, but has seen all the proceedings of late years. The rites are celebrated at uncertain intervals, whenever there are a sufficient number of candidates forthcoming from a group of villages; at intervals perhaps of six or ten years. Some great man (or two or three of them together) presides and manages the arrangements, and teaches the songs and dance; the Qeta is said to be his or theirs. The scene of the meeting is some ute gogona, a place on which tapu has been laid. Many small houses are built there, in which the boys live during the first part of their seclusion. Boys of all ages are initiated, generally about the time of putting on the malo, the dress worn by men; all are initiated sooner or later, none grow up without it; to put on the malo and to enter the Qeta are necessary steps in life. The entrance payment is a mat given by the father, or guardian, one for each boy.