Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/145

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Misuse of Terms. Spirits.

spirits of the dead, as well as of the ghosts of men. When a missionary visitor to Anaiteum reported that the people 'lived under the most abject bondage to their Natmases,' and called these 'gods,' he was evidently speaking of the ghosts, the Natmat of the Banks' Islands, for the word is no doubt the same. The belief in other spirits not ghosts of the dead, appears equally clear in the account given of the sacred stones and places, which correspond to those of the northern islands of the same group, and in the 'minor deities' said to be the progeny of Nugerain, and called 'gods of the sea, of the land, of mountains and valleys,' who represent the wui of Lepers' Island and Araga. There does not appear to be anywhere in Melanesia a belief in a spirit which animates any natural object, a tree, waterfall, storm or rock, so as to be to it what the soul is believed to be to the body of a man. Europeans it is true speak of the spirits of the sea or of the storm or of the forest; but the native idea which they represent is that ghosts haunt the sea and the forest, having power to raise storms and to strike a traveller with disease, or that supernatural beings never men do the same. It may be said, then, that Melanesian religion divides the people into two groups; one, where, with an accompanying belief in spirits never men, worship is directed to the ghosts of the dead, as in the Solomon Islands; the other, where both ghosts and spirits have an important place, but the spirits have more worship than the ghosts, as is the case in the New Hebrides and in the Banks' Islands.

(3) In the Banks' Islands a spirit is called a vui, and is thus described by a native who was exhorted to give as far as possible the original notion conveyed among the old people by the word, and gave his definition after considerable reflection:—'What is a vui? It lives, thinks, has more intelligence than a man; knows things which are secret without seeing; is supernaturally powerful with mana; has no form to be seen; has no soul, because itself is like a soul.' But though the true conception of a vui represents it as incorporeal, the stories about the vui who have names treat