Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/167

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CHAPTER IX.

PRAYERS.

A Melanesian native in danger, difficulty and distress, will naturally call upon the beings in whose power to help him he believes. He will upon occasion do this with exclamations which express his feelings. This from his point of view would not be prayer, because it has no formal character. There are also songs, incantations, charms, which have power in them by virtue of the names or words contained in them. These are not addressed directly to the beings whose power they bring to bear, and would not be called prayers. There are besides invocations which may be called prayers, that is formal addresses to beg for succour or for aid. But it is certainly very difficult, if not impossible, to find in any Melanesian language a word which directly translates the word prayer, so closely does the notion of efficacy cling to the form employed. Addresses which may be called prayers in the Solomon Islands are of course made to the beings to whom they look there for other than human aid, to the tindalo, ghosts now powerful of men deceased. The invocations used at sacrifices are prayers; and those may properly be so called which are used at sea. Thus at Florida to Daula, a tindalo generally known and connected with the frigate-bird: 'Do thou draw the canoe, that it may reach the land; speed my canoe, grandfather, that I may quickly reach the shore whither I am bound. Do thou, Daula, lighten the canoe, that it may quickly gain the land, and rise upon the shore.' They invoke also Bagea as their grandfather; the word bagea meaning