Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/115

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New Hebrides. Pentecost Island.

When the day appointed for the Qeta comes, all the initiated assemble at the place, and the women keep away. There is no enclosure, but when the ceremony begins a stick is laid upon the ground as a mark of entrance, and two companies of the initiated stand singing within the mark with a space between them. The boy who enters steps over the stick, and as he does so, if he has already a malo, they break unexpectedly his girdle string; the malo falls and he enters naked. If the boy is too young to walk, he is carried over by his father or the friend who pays for him. The boys do not remain naked during the whole time of their seclusion, a fresh malo is given to each of them. My informant, himself initiated in his father's arms, began his story by saying that the Qeta was exceedingly bad. Being desired at the end of it to point out what there was exceedingly bad in the whole proceeding he referred to this, to expose a boy naked who had the malo was very bad indeed. When entered the neophytes stay in the houses, except when they come out to eat and sing and dance; they have their bodies blackened with charcoal, and wear no ornaments. There are long rows of seats made on which the boys sit to eat; the initiated feed them, giving each a bite, and the boys get nothing else to eat, though the initiated bring in food for themselves and eat it privately. The boys are taught a dance and song, singing aloud and dancing round the seats. The meaning of the song is trifling; its use is to mark the steps of the dance. There is absolutely no secret, or any other knowledge communicated than that of the song and dance, and nothing else in the way of initiation. The time of seclusion is uncertain. After the first three days the greater number of the initiated go away; food runs short, though the boys have very small bites; they begin to scatter a little, not going into the villages, but living in little houses near the gardens, the men looking after and feeding each household of boys. The whole time of seclusion lasts about five months, that is to say that yams are planted when it begins and the harvest is waited for. In the later time the restriction as to food is easier, but no fish or shell-fish is