Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/150

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CHAPTER VIII.

SACRIFICES.

The simplest and most common sacrificial act is that of throwing a small portion of food to the dead; this is probably a universal practice in Melanesia. A fragment of food ready to be eaten, of yam, a leaf of mallow, a bit of betel-nut, is thrown aside, and, where they drink kava, a libation is made of a few drops, as the share of departed friends, or as a memorial of them with which they will be gratified. This is done perhaps with the calling of the name of some one recently deceased or particularly in remembrance at the time, or else with a general regard to the ghosts of former members of the community. It is hardly thought that this becomes in fact the food of the departed, but somehow it is to their advantage, at any rate it pleases them. At the same time the living friends like to feel and shew remembrance of the dead who have sat with them around the oven; and it is an opportunity of getting help from ghostly power, for which prayer is made. In the New Hebrides and Banks' Islands this domestic rite has not, so far as my knowledge goes, developed into any formal sacrifice, as it has in the Solomon Islands; for it may be surely thought that the sacrifices of the latter islands have had their origin in such offerings to the dead. To place food on a burial-place or before some memorial image is common; and to do this is to offer a kind of sacrifice, even if as in Santa Cruz the offering is soon taken away and eaten. But the natives do not call either of these offerings a sacrifice, do not use for either the words for which