Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/172

This page has been validated.


CHAPTER X.

SPIRITS.

Beings of a more or less distinctly spiritual nature, who at any rate never were men, have their place in the beliefs and in the stories of the Banks' Islands and the New Hebrides very much more than in the Solomon Islands. Koevasi, already mentioned, in Florida and Kahausibware in San Cristoval belong to the latter group, and may well be supposed to be the same personage under different names. Both were never human, yet in some way originators of the human race; both were female, both subjects of stories, not objects of worship. Kahausibware was a Hi'ona, a being of super-human character, dwelling on the mountain of Bauro, the central mass of San Cristoval, in the time of the infancy of the human race. She was a snake in outward form. There was in the same place a woman, a human being, the offspring in some way of Kahausibware. In those days all the fruits of the earth grew without labour, and all was of the best; it was Kahausibware who made men, pigs, and other animals, cocoa-nuts, fruit-trees, and all the food with which the island is now furnished, and death had not yet appeared. The woman one day went to her work, and left her infant in the house in charge of the spirit snake, who was so much annoyed by the screaming of the child that she coiled herself round it and strangled it. The mother came in while the folds of the serpent's body were still wound round her child, and seizing an axe she began to chop the snake to pieces. As she chopped it asunder the parts came together again; but the