Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/149

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Prayers and Offerings.

stronger; who have only been known, and that of late years, in Florida in their spiritual state and power, but never in human form. At any rate the objects of religious worship are all tindalo; and every tindalo was once a man.

(4) Taking the islands of Melanesia, as many of them as come here into view, as a whole, it is found that Prayers and Offerings are made everywhere to spirits, to ghosts, or to both. The prayers are perhaps in some cases constraining charms, are certainly often forms of words believed to be acceptable to the being addressed, and known only to those who have special access to him. But there are also natural calls for help in danger and distress. The offerings or sacrifices, whether made to spirits or to ghosts, and differing a good deal in eastern and western islands, have various motives. Some are propitiatory, substituting an animal for the person who has offended; some deprecatory; some are offered to conciliate and gratify with a view to gain; some only to shew proper attention and respect or even affection; but the notion of propitiation is not at all commonly present. There is no priestly order, and no persons who can properly be called priests. Any man can have access to some object of worship, and most men in fact do have it, either by discovery of their own or by knowledge imparted to them by those who have before employed it. If the object of worship, as in some sacrifices, is one common to the members of a community, the man who knows how to approach that object is in a way their priest and sacrifices for them all; but it is in respect of that particular function only that he has a sacred character; and it is very much by virtue of that function that a man is a chief, and not at all because he is chief that he performs the sacrifice. Women and children generally are excluded from religious rites. In close connexion with religious observances come the various practices of magic and witchcraft, of doctoring and weather-doctoring; for all is done by the aid of ghosts and spirits.