Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/176

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Spirits.

But a Nopitu would also manifest itself in a different manner. A party would be sitting round an evening fire, and one of them would hear a voice as if proceeding from his thigh, saying, 'Here am I, give me some food, I am hungry.' He would roast a little red yam, and when it was done fold it in the corner of the mat on which he was sitting. In a little while it would be gone, and then the Nopitu would begin to talk and sing in a voice so small and clear and sweet, that once heard it never could be forgotten; but it sang the ordinary Mota songs, while the men drummed an accompaniment for it. Then it would say, 'I am going;' they would call it, and it was gone. Then a woman would feel it come to her, and sit upon her knee; she would hear it cry 'Mother! Mother!' She would know it, and carry it in a mat upon her back like an infant. Sometimes a woman would hear a Nopitu say 'Mother, I am coming to you,' and she would feel the spirit entering into her, and it would be born afterwards as an ordinary child. Such a one, named Rongoloa, was not long ago still living at Motlav. The Nopitu, like other spirits, were the familiars only of those who knew them, and these were often women. If a man wished to know and become known to a Nopitu, he gave money to some woman who knew those spirits, and then one would come to him.

The place of Qat in the popular beliefs of the Banks' Islands was so high and so conspicuous that when the people first became known to Europeans it was supposed that he was their god, the supreme creator of men and pigs and food. It is certain that he was believed to have made things in another sense from that in which men could be said to make them. To the present day a mother chides a sleepy, fractious child, or one crying with hunger, with the words, 'Do you think you are going to die? Don't you know that Qat made you so?' If a pig comes indoors to sleep in bad weather, the man who drives it out says to it, 'Qat made you to stay outside.' These are not serious sayings; but it was believed that Qat had made some creatures and fixed the natural condition of