Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/220

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[ch.
Magic.

treatment of a local pain is to squeeze leaves and herbs upon the part; but it is the malete, and not the natural property of these medicines, that works the cure.

In the Banks' Islands the gismana practised the same arts with his brethren of the west[1]. He worked the cause of pain and disease downwards, and extracted it; he stroked the seat of pain and spat; he sucked out or bit out from the seat of pain a fragment of wood, bone, or leaf: for swellings he chewed certain herbs and leaves and blew, pupsag, upon the place; he used fomentations and poultices of mallow leaves, for example, with some knowledge of the healing and soothing properties in them; he gave the patient to drink water from a hollow in a sacred stone, or water in which stones full of mana for this purpose had been laid, from which probably European medicine came to be called pel mana; and all was done by virtue of the mana conveyed in the charms sung over the remedy employed, songs which were themselves called mana, or in the muttered words, wosag, which took the disease away. Women had a share in the practice of this art; some of them knew the charms by which the soul of a sick child which a ghost was drawing away could be recalled, and the ghost driven off; the woman blowing on the child's eyes and calling the name of the attacking ghost. The gismana by no means confined himself to the care of the sick, all ways of working by means of mana were in his line of practice; women, however, did not

  1. One of our native mission agents in Fiji assured me very earnestly that he had the power of expelling disease-causing spirits, and he gave me a minute description of his treatment. He passed his hands over the patient's body till he detected the spirit by a peculiar fluttering sensation in his finger ends. He then endeavoured to bring it down to one of the extremities, a foot or hand. Much patience and care were required, because these spirits are very cunning, and will double back and hide themselves in the trunk of the body if you give them a chance. "And even," he said, "when you have got the demon into a leg or an arm which you can grasp with your fingers, you must take care or he will escape you. He will lodge in the joints, and hide himself among the bones. Hard indeed it is to get him out of a joint! But when you have drawn him down to a finger or a toe, you must pull him out with a sudden jerk, and throw him far away, and blow after him lest he should return."'—Rev. L. Fison.