Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/205

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New Hebrides. Stones.

men of old time turned into stones; some never were anything but stones, but have a vui connected with them; some stones above the waterfall are called the 'dwellers in the land,' the native people of the stream, and these have all their names. They have much spiritual power, for they are in a way the bodily presentment of the spirits to whom the stream belongs. When men go eel-fishing, they secure success by offering a bit of the first they catch upon the appropriate stone. Sacred stones of all kinds have spiritual power, mana, as belonging to spirits, in various degrees and to be obtained for various purposes. Some cause sickness of the soul, some have great power in a charm, when a bit taken with a prayer is pounded up with a fragment of the person's food to whom mischief is to be wrought. Sometimes in Aurora a stone is smeared with red earth; in Pentecost and Lepers' Island one is anointed with the juice of a young cocoa-nut. In the last-named island no other offerings are made on stones; men go to them in the sacred places in the forest and call upon Tagaro. There are also stones in the sea near Lepers' Island which belong to spirits, and which people in canoes will not approach lest sharks should eat them.

The stones hitherto referred to are stones as they naturally lie, the presence of which, because of their association with a spirit, makes the ground about them a holy place, a tano rongo, or ute sapuga. But small stones that could be carried about had an active part in the native life of the Banks' Islands and the New Hebrides. The following are examples from the Banks' group. No garden was planted without stones buried in the ground to ensure a crop. A piece of Astræa coral-stone water-worn on the beach often bears a surprising likeness to a bread-fruit. A man who should find one of these would try its powers by laying it at the root of a tree of his own, and a good crop would prove its connexion with a spirit good for bread-fruit. The happy owner would then for a consideration take stones of less marked character from other men, and let them lie near his, till the mana in his stone should be imparted to theirs. Likeness to other fruits or tubers would be the