Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/175

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Banks' Islands. 'Nopitu.'

after he had paid a debt. There was a woman living a few years ago in Mota whose father was a vui. Popular stories shewed how these beings were believed to be at hand in the affairs of men. A woman working in her garden heard a voice from the fruit of a gourd asking her for food; when she pulled up a caladium or dug a yam another immediately came into its place; but when she listened to another vui playing on his panpipe, the first in his jealousy conveyed away the garden and all. In these stories, and no doubt in common belief, there was a certain confusion between these spirits and ghosts of the departed.

Some vui, spiritual beings, yet in some way corporeal, figure strangely in the stories of Mota as Nopitu, and of Motlav, in another form of the same word, as Dembit. There is often a difficulty in understanding what is told about them, because the name Nopitu is given both to the spirit and to the person possessed by the spirit, who performs wonders by the power and in the name of the Nopitu who possesses him. Such a one would call himself Nopitu; rather, speaking of himself, will say not 'I,' but 'we two,' meaning the Nopitu in him and himself, or 'we' when he is possessed by many. He would dance at a festival, such as a kolekole, as no man not possessed by a Nopitu could dance. He would scratch himself, his arm or his head, and new money not yet strung would fall from his fingers; Vetpepewu told me that he had seen money fall from a Nopitu at a kolekole—bags full. One would shake himself on a mat and unstrung money would pour down into it. He would take a cocoa-nut to drink, and the bystanders would hear money pouring out instead of the liquor, and rattling against his teeth, and he would spit it up upon the ground. Tursal has seen at Mota a woman vomit native money—a Nopitu possessed by such a spirit. To obtain the favour of the Nopitu men would offer, oloolo, as at a sacrifice, to the man possessed; would give him a red yam and almonds; he would eat the yam raw, and be heard crunching money with his teeth. If a young cocoa-nut was offered he would open the eye and drink, and then give it back full of money.