Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/228

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[ch.
Magic.

To add force to the ghostly discharge he fasted so many days before the feast began that when the day arrived he was too weak to walk. When the people had assembled, he had himself carried out and set down at the edge of the open space where the dancing would go on. All the men there knew that there was one of them he meant to shoot; no one knew whether it was himself. There he sat as the dancers rapidly passed him circling round, a fearful object, black with dirt and wasted to a skeleton with fasting, his tamatetiqa within his closed fingers stopped with his thumb, his trembling arm stretched out, and his bleared eyes watching for his enemy. Every man trembled inwardly as he danced by him, and the attention of the whole crowd was fixed on him. After a while, bewildered and dazed with his own weakness, the rapid movements of the dancers, and the noise, he mistook his man; he raised his arm and lifted his thumb. The man he aimed at fell at once upon the ground, and the dancers stopped. Then he saw that he had failed, and that the wrong man was hit, and his distress was great; but the man who had fallen and was ready to expire, when he was made to understand that no harm was meant him, took courage again to live, and presently revived. No doubt he would have died if the mistake had not been known.

There is a strange method of magical attack used at Savo, and known at Florida, called vele, a word which means to pinch. The man who has the secret of this takes in a bag upon his back the leaves and other things in which mana for this purpose resides, and seeks to find the man alone he goes to injure. When he finds him, he seizes him, bites his neck, stuffs the magic leaves down his throat, and knocks him on the head with an axe, but not so as to kill him. He then leaves the man, who goes home, relates what has happened, and dies after two days, If the attack is made in the night, the man cannot tell who his assailant was; but the vele is used also in broad daylight, and the assailant does not conceal himself, but tells his name and bids his victim make it known. As he goes home the charm makes him forget it. A strong man will not