Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/236

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[ch.
Magic.

not denied), it was not any naturally noxious property which was expected to produce the injurious result; nor when mischief followed was it ascribed to the natural quality of what had been administered; the magic charms had in native belief the power of poisoning, and communicated it to the preparation which was mixed with the food. No doubt the materials over which the poison charm was sung were such as seemed to have a certain congruity with the effect to be produced. The secrets of poison-making have not become known; but in Florida it is believed by the people that the liver of a black snake dried in the sun or over a fire was the chief ingredient in the poisons which were used there. There were certain persons who knew the art, and were hired to poison with maomao, made with the mana power of the tindalo ghost belonging to the sorcerer employed, and mixed in the food of the man whose life was aimed at. The Savo people were great poisoners; Florida men who visited them were careful what they ate. The effect of the poison was that one who had taken it fell sick, vomited, and afterwards died. The practice of this art was dangerous to the poisoner; a known poisoner was put to death in Florida, and so were many innocent persons suspected or accused. In the Banks' Islands to poison was to vangan pal, to feed by stealth. The Ureparapara people in that group had the repute of being poisoners, others would get poison from thence; in Mota no one knew the art. In Lepers' Island poison is called, by a parallel expression, aruwana; all that I have learnt of it is that the preparation of it is very secret, and that it is made with charms in the same way with the garata above described. In fact the correspondence between the native poison and the charm that works destruction through a fragment of food is complete: in the one case a portion of the food already eaten by the person to be injured is mixed with certain magically powerful substances; in the other the magically powerful substances are mixed in the food to be eaten. In either case, according to the native belief, the mischief was caused by magic. A man eating away from his closest friends was in