Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/125

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Banks' Islands 'Suqe.'

when new members are admitted, can see what is going on, though women are most strictly excluded. It is a social, not at all a religious, institution; yet, inasmuch as religious practices enter into the common life of the people, and all success and advance in life is believed to be due to mana, supernatural influence, the aid of unseen powers is sought for by fasting, sacrifices, and prayers, in order to mount to the successive degrees of the society. To rise from step to step money is wanted, and food and pigs; no one can get these unless he has mana for it; therefore as mana gets a man on in the Suqe, so every one high in the Suqe is certainly a man with mana, and a man of authority, a great man, one who may be called a chief, whom traders may call a king. A man who has got to the very top and emerged, me wot, is a very great man indeed; he has the title of Wetuka, as if he had reached the sky; he is of a rank which very few have attained, and without his consent, to be obtained by substantial payment, no one can be advanced at all. In the Banks' Island stories the poor lad or orphan who becomes the Fortunate Youth rises to greatness by the Suqe; he takes the highest grade in this instead of marrying the king's daughter. In the absence of any more directly political arrangements among the people, it is plain that a valuable bond of society is furnished by the Suqe, in which the male population generally is united, and in which a considerable power of control is vested in the elder and richer men, who can admit or reject candidates for the higher ranks as they think fit. The great mass of the natives never rise above the middle rank, many never arrive at that; but almost all, for the exceptions are very rare, are brought while still boys into the society. A man who has never entered has the nickname of a lusa, a kind of flying fox which does not gather with the flocks of the common sort. At entrance and at every successive step money has to be paid to those who have already attained it, and a feast more or less costly given according to the rank to be attained. Hence, while hardly any lad is so friendless as not to enter the lowest division, hardly any live to rise to the highest place;