Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/146

This page has been validated.
124
[ch.
Religion.

them as if they were men possessed of supernatural power. The wui of the Northern New Hebrides are the same. In the Solomon Islands it is difficult to get any definition of a spirit except that there are beings which were never men, and have not the bodily nature of a man. In San Cristoval such a being is called Figona or Hi'ona. Such was Kahausibware, a female, and a snake. The name hi'ona is known in Malanta also, but used with no very clear application; they believe there also in urehi, not living men, nor the ghosts of dead men, that haunt big trees in the forest and snatch away the souls of men. These are seen like ghosts, but are not sacrificed to or invoked. The name vigona is known also at Florida, and is applied to beings whose power exercises itself in storms, rain, drought, calms, and in the growth of food; but these the natives decline to admit to be simple spirits, thinking they must once have been men; and doubtless some so called were men not long ago. One being only is asserted there to be superhuman, never alive with a mere human life, and therefore not now a ghost; one that now receives no worship, but is the subject of stories only, without any religious consideration. This is Koevasi, a female. How she came into existence no one knows; she made things of all kinds; she became herself the mother of a woman from whom the people of the island descend. She was the author of death by resuming her cast-off skin; she was the originator of the varying dialects of the islands round; for having started on a voyage she was seized with ague, and shook so much that her utterance was confused. Wherever she landed the people caught from her an almost unintelligible speech. The chill of this ague remains in the river Kakambona in Laudari, Guadalcanar; Koevasi washed in it, and the water is now so cold that to wade into it makes one ill.

These spirits, such as they are, have no position in the religion of the Solomon Islands; the ghosts, the disembodied spirits 'of the dead, are objects of worship; the tindalo of Florida, tidadho of Ysabel, tinda'o of Guadalcanar, lio'a of Saa, 'ataro of San Cristoval. But it must not be supposed that every