Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/203

This page has been validated.
Banks' Islands and New Hebrides. Stones.

embodied in men, and in which therefore sacred places and objects are generally such because of their connexion with spirits. Burial-places are certainly held in respect, especially the graves of men of importance in their time; a certain sacredness attaches to all belonging to the dead; but it is to the presence of a spirit, vui, that the special quality of most sacred places and objects belongs. In the Banks' Islands the difference between a naturally sacred character and that which follows upon an authoritative separation from common uses is marked by the use of two words, rongo and tapu or tambu, (recognised in English as taboo,) corresponding with which in the New Hebrides are sapuga and gogona. A naturally sacred, rongo, sapuga, character is given by the presence of a spirit, or association with one; and in by far the greater number of instances it is found that a spirit is associated with a stone. In the Banks' Islands a man would happen upon a boulder of volcanic or coral rock, and would be struck with a belief that a spirit was connected with it. The stone then was rongo, and the place in which it lay was rongo; the man constituted himself the master of the sanctuary; it was his marana within which none but himself, or those brought in by him, could come. Some stones are known to all, and are of more common access. At Losalav in Saddle Island there is near the beach a natural ring of stones which has been from time immemorial a sacred place. The people call the ring a fence, the space within it a garden, and the stones that lie within yam, banana, kava pepper, and other roots and fruits commonly planted by them. These stones were used for offerings of money and sweet-smelling leaves, in the belief that the plants corresponding to the stones would flourish and abound. The character and influence of the spirit connected with any sacred stone was judged by the shape of the stone. If a man came upon a large stone with a number of small ones beneath it, lying like a sow among her litter, he was sure that to offer money upon it would bring him pigs. Such a stone is Ro Tortoros at Mota; another Merina found and named from its shape the Pig; his wealth in pigs resulted from his discovery.